No election? Is it good or bad?

Following Gordon Brown's confirmation there will be no autumn poll Sian Berry reflects on the up and

So, there’s no election next month after all. I wish I had put money on that outcome a fortnight ago, when literally everyone was telling me it was a dead cert to happen.

This did include several journalists and political forecasters, and some of the shrewdest politicians I know, so I think it probably was at some point ‘on’. But events intervened (not least the genius of whoever organised the collective protest that involved people who couldn’t be bothered with it all telling ICM they were staunch Conservatives) and so it’s all off.

I have very mixed feelings about this episode. I don’t know whether to feel annoyed or relieved, jilted or let off. So, since my creative writing juices are all being used up meeting a book deadline, no well-thought-out analysis from me this week, just the tired old lazy blogger’s option of a couple of lists…

List one: top three reasons why not having an election is a good thing.

1) End of Brown bounce double-think

Brown is less ridiculously popular at last. The past few months have been one of those periods of collective amnesia right out of Orwell. As soon as he became PM, everyone - including normally sensible political editors - seemed to forget he’d been running the country for ten whole years and actually to believe ‘everything had changed’. Thank goodness that’s all over.

2) Tory true colours revealed

David Cameron’s New Lovely Conservatives™ have revealed that they are still a bunch of toads after all. Like a magic spell in a Grimm fairy tale, as soon as the mild panic of an imminent election campaign swept over them, the evil lurking under the spin was revealed. With unseemly haste, they ditched their paper-thin greenwash, hid the still-warm Quality of Life review under the sofa, and announced a bunch (yes, another bunch) of tax cuts for millionaires instead.

3) I don’t have to go canvassing for weeks and weeks in the dark and/or cold and/or wet.

Generally I love canvassing, but I had an autumn by-election last year and it can be awful this time of year. When it’s cold and dark, not only is it hazardous on all those unlit basement stairways, but you lose all the feeling in your hands, toes and lips after half and hour and, to make it worse, the success of each doorstep encounter is measured in how much heat you can allow to escape from the canvasee’s house. A carbon disaster – in my world all elections would be in June.

List two: top three reasons why I’m a bit gutted

1) Re-start of Cameron cult?

Despite the party’s overall nastiness being reconfirmed, Cameron himself has had a bit of a boost. He had been looking increasingly crappy in Brown’s new unspun world of grittinesss, but with the press all annoyed with the PM now for leading them up the garden path (and despite what has to have been one of the dullest and least passionate party leader speeches in history) Dave is flavour of the month again. I despair!

2) We were, actually, just about ready for this.

Given the long notice of the possibility of the ‘snap’ election, we were well on the way to having a great campaign ready to roll. We have more candidates selected than at any comparable point, our policies are in better shape than ever (largely thanks to the work done on our carbon-costed budget earlier this year) and, organisationally, we were all set to campaign like mad in our three target seats. Yeah, we could have had ‘em, bring it on, etc, etc.

3) We won’t after all see the first Green MPs next month.

Last May we topped the poll in local elections in our target seats in Brighton and Norwich. So, in a snap election a few months afterwards, we’d have had a great chance of repeating that achievement and making history with the first Green MPs.

However, waiting is not such a bad thing. It does give our recently selected candidate, Caroline Lucas MEP in Brighton, more time to build up a deeper rapport with voters there. With longer to campaign, and with far better candidates than the other parties, a delay at least lets us make sure we’re best placed to win in our target seats when Brown finally decides he has an iron grip on people’s voting intentions – or when his time runs out.

Sian Berry lives in Kentish Town and was previously a principal speaker and campaigns co-ordinator for the Green Party. She was also their London mayoral candidate in 2008. She works as a writer and is a founder of the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s
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Theresa May’s Brexit speech is Angela Merkel’s victory – here’s why

The Germans coined the word “merkeln to describe their Chancellor’s approach to negotiations. 

It is a measure of Britain’s weak position that Theresa May accepts Angela Merkel’s ultimatum even before the Brexit negotiations have formally started

The British Prime Minister blinked first when she presented her plan for Brexit Tuesday morning. After months of repeating the tautological mantra that “Brexit means Brexit”, she finally specified her position when she essentially proposed that Britain should leave the internal market for goods, services and people, which had been so championed by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. 

By accepting that the “UK will be outside” and that there can be “no half-way house”, Theresa May has essentially caved in before the negotiations have begun.

At her meeting with May in July last year, the German Chancellor stated her ultimatum that there could be no “Rosinenpickerei” – the German equivalent of cherry picking. Merkel stated that Britain was not free to choose. That is still her position.

Back then, May was still battling for access to the internal market. It is a measure of how much her position has weakened that the Prime Minister has been forced to accept that Britain will have to leave the single market.

For those who have followed Merkel in her eleven years as German Kanzlerin there is sense of déjà vu about all this.  In negotiations over the Greek debt in 2011 and in 2015, as well as in her negotiations with German banks, in the wake of the global clash in 2008, Merkel played a waiting game; she let others reveal their hands first. The Germans even coined the word "merkeln", to describe the Chancellor’s favoured approach to negotiations.

Unlike other politicians, Frau Merkel is known for her careful analysis, behind-the-scene diplomacy and her determination to pursue German interests. All these are evident in the Brexit negotiations even before they have started.

Much has been made of US President-Elect Donald Trump’s offer to do a trade deal with Britain “very quickly” (as well as bad-mouthing Merkel). In the greater scheme of things, such a deal – should it come – will amount to very little. The UK’s exports to the EU were valued at £223.3bn in 2015 – roughly five times as much as our exports to the United States. 

But more importantly, Britain’s main export is services. It constitutes 79 per cent of the economy, according to the Office of National Statistics. Without access to the single market for services, and without free movement of skilled workers, the financial sector will have a strong incentive to move to the European mainland.

This is Germany’s gain. There is a general consensus that many banks are ready to move if Britain quits the single market, and Frankfurt is an obvious destination.

In an election year, this is welcome news for Merkel. That the British Prime Minister voluntarily gives up the access to the internal market is a boon for the German Chancellor and solves several of her problems. 

May’s acceptance that Britain will not be in the single market shows that no country is able to secure a better deal outside the EU. This will deter other countries from following the UK’s example. 

Moreover, securing a deal that will make Frankfurt the financial centre in Europe will give Merkel a political boost, and will take focus away from other issues such as immigration.

Despite the rise of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party, the largely proportional electoral system in Germany will all but guarantee that the current coalition government continues after the elections to the Bundestag in September.

Before the referendum in June last year, Brexiteers published a poster with the mildly xenophobic message "Halt ze German advance". By essentially caving in to Merkel’s demands before these have been expressly stated, Mrs May will strengthen Germany at Britain’s expense. 

Perhaps, the German word schadenfreude comes to mind?

Matthew Qvortrup is author of the book Angela Merkel: Europe’s Most Influential Leader published by Duckworth, and professor of applied political science at Coventry University.